January 2019 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only
Rifles chambered in 7mm Remington Magnum are popular hunting setups for whitetail deer up to elk. We looked at three hunting rifles in 7mm Rem. Mag. in a price range to suit nearly any budget. At the low end is the Mossberg Patriot ($542), a traditionally styled hunting rifle with a walnut stock and matte-blued metal. A midrange-cost firearm is the Savage 110 Storm ($849) with a matte-stainless barreled action and synthetic AccuStock. This was the most modern looking rifle of the trio. At the high end is the Howa M1500 HS Precision ($1119). This rifle features an HS Precision laminated stock and a sub-MOA guarantee. The other rifles did not offer an accuracy guarantee. All rifles use a push-feed bolt-action design with two locking lugs, which means the bolt lift on all three is 90 degrees. They also have a cocking indicator that protrudes from the rear of the bolt to tell the user the rifle is cocked. You can see the cocking indicator and feel it. All featured a free-floated barrel and fairly good trigger. What separated the Savage from the Howa and Mossberg was the customizable stock.
We equipped the trio with variable-power scopes. In the middle is a Simmons AETEC 2.8-10x44mm, and at the bottom end of cost is a Simmons Whitetail Classic 3-9x40mm scope. At the high end was a Vortex Crossfire II 4-16x50mm. All three were well constructed, used a second-focal-plane reticle, and featured capped turrets. We thought the Simmons Whitetail Classic was a great deal, and it performed well even with its plain Truplex reticle. The Simmons AETEC scope was light weight and short, so it didn’t add a lot of weight to the rifle. It also uses aspherical lenses, which gives the user a flat, distortion-free image. The AETEC also used a Truplex reticle and had the best clarity and contrast between the Simmons scopes. The Vortex Crossfire II also had good clarity/contrast and a Dead-Hold BDC reticle, which we felt offered better aiming. There are numerous hold marks on the vertical and horizontal crosshairs that allow the shooter to be more accurate if he understands his reticle. The simplicity of the Truplex reticle requires the shooter to guesstimate holdover and wind compensation. The Vortex scope was the longest and did provide more eye-relief adjustment in the rings, which also made it easier to mount. Smaller scopes on long-action rifles can be tight to fit, with less room to adjust eye relief. We used Weaver rings with all the scopes and found the 7-M-M did not rattle them loose.
For a spotter we used a Styrka S7 15-45x65mm spotting scope. This spotter features an angled eyepiece and comes with a carry case that protects the spotter yet unzips so you can mount it to a tripod and still protect the spotter. Not that we weren’t careful, but we did drop the spotter on the cement deck from bench height and it survived the fall. It has a rubber-armor skin. A sunshade is built in, and the magnification ring rotates smoothly and easily, which we like especially when the magnification is high and the field of view is small. It could be adjusted without losing the target. It also has coarse- and fine-focus knobs and a rotating tripod mount that allows the user to adjust the eyepiece for more comfortable viewing. We used it during the day and in the setting glare of the North Carolina sun, and we easily could pick our hits on paper.
We used a variety of hunting ammo in bullets weights that included 150-, 162-, 165-, and 175-grain projectiles from Federal Premium and Hornady. We used low-cost Federal Fusion soft points ($31.53) and Federal Vital-Shok with Sierra GameKing BTSP bullets ($37.09), as well as more expensive Hornady Precision Hunters loaded with ELD-X bullets ($40.50) and Federal Vital-Shok loaded with Bear Claw bullets. We were able to get a sub-MOA group out of all the rifles, but the Howa and Savage continually surprised us with some excellent groups.